The formal ribbon-cutting for the renamed James R. Watson and Judy Rodriguez Watson College of Education at Cal State San Bernardino will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

The ceremony is set for 11:30 a.m. in front of the building on the campus’ Coyote Walk.

The college is being renamed in honor of James R. Watson and Judy Rodriguez Watson, longtime friends of the university and its College of Education, who have pledged a transformative gift of $8.4 million to the university. The Watson & Associates Literacy Center, which assists students in K-12 improve their reading, listening and writing skills, is housed in the college.

The Watsons’ transformative gift will support student scholarships and establish a new Center for STEM Education. The STEM Center will be the hub for outreach to K-12 students in the region and will include a Model STEM Exploratorium and a teacher residency program, said Robert Nava, CSUSB vice president of University Advancement. The gift will also support Project Impact, a new program in the college to recruit and prepare teachers to serve underrepresented students in public schools. Funds will also be used to enhance the Watson Literacy Center’s efforts in the Inland Empire.

Since 2003, the Watsons have been contributors to and advocates for CSUSB, in particular for the College of Education and its literacy center. Their leadership and fundraising skills sparked CSUSB to ask them to serve as co-chairs of the College of Education’s capital campaign. The Watsons enabled CSUSB to enhance the then new education building and its programs, as the campaign raised more than $3 million. The Watsons also contributed the lead gift to the campaign. In recognition, the building’s student services center was named for them. 

James “Jim” Watson worked as a real estate appraiser before launching his own company in 1972. As president and chief executive officer of J.R. Watson & Associates, a private commercial real estate firm based in Seal Beach, he has developed shopping centers, residential and master-planned mixed-use projects. Jim is a former chair of the board of the CSUSB Philanthropic Foundation (2012-2013), where he has also been a member of the executive committee and board of directors. Cal State San Bernardino awarded him an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2010.

Judy Rodriguez Watson, who serves as senior vice president alongside Jim at J.R. Watson & Associates Development Corporation, is an ardent supporter of education and the arts. Judy was born and raised in Los Angeles, but her connection to Latino culture was nurtured early in her childhood. Her father, who was born in Veracruz, Mexico, would take her mother, three sisters and her on a two-week visit each summer to cities in Mexico. Passionate about education, in 2011, Judy served as honorary chair for the Latino Education and Advocacy Days (LEAD) summit at CSUSB and was affectionately termed, “La Madrina de Honor,” or honorary godmother. She was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2015. 

The Watsons are also dynamic proponents of public art in San Bernardino and have been instrumental in partnering with the city to display CSUSB student art citywide. They have provided funding to the university’s Coyote Conservatory, a performance arts outreach project led by CSUSB’s theatre arts department.

The James R. Watson and Judy Rodriguez Watson College of Education is the second college to be named after a CSUSB supporter. In July 2016, the CSUSB College of Business was renamed the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration to honor businessman and philanthropist Jack H. Brown.